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Pleasantville Entrepreneurs Re-Think Chickpeas With Pasta Perfection

Brian and Scott Rudolph, brothers and Pleasantville natives, have built a foundation for a possible pasta empire in just two years' time. Photo Credit: Provided
Banza makes five different kinds of chickpea-based pasta, and mac-and-cheese, too Photo Credit: Banza/Facebook
Banza's brightly colored boxes make it clear that the pasta inside is made with high-protein, gluten-free chickpeas. Photo Credit: Twitter

PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. -- Two Pleasantville natives seem to have found the recipe for business success: Take a passion for pasta, mix with social media savvy, toss in some tenacity and – voilà – you’ve got an up-and-coming food brand.

Brothers Scott and Brian Randolph’s company, Banza , has been rolling out high protein, gluten-free rotini, penne, elbows and shells made with chickpeas for about two years now, according to a recent article in The New York Times.

Their product, introduced on a reality restaurant start-up show, hit a few bumps along the way -- before the Ruldolphs adjusted the formula, it tended to turn to mush when not cooked properly and some influencers in the food world had to get over their initial distrust of the novelty item, The New York Times report said.

But after using money from the show, combined with crowdfunding and a grant from a nonprofit that supports young entrepreneurs, they were able to launch their Banza line and make their first big sale to a Michigan-based supercenter chain, The New York Times reported.

Today, the pasta (and mac-and-cheese) is sold in more than 3,000 stores – such as Target, Whole Foods, DeCicco’s and Shoprite.

For a full list of local stores that carry Banza, click here.

According to the company, its Target launch last month meant the pasta would be sold in 1,700 new stores.

In 2016, it said, Banza tripled its retail distribution and put the product “on the map in every state across the country.”

The company's goal, its publicist said, “is to make the foods people already love by using more nutritious ingredients.”

Being in Target, said Brian Rudolph, helps Banza bring “a better pasta to more people.”

“We’re so grateful for Target’s belief in our potential, and for the Banza fans who made our first 315 stores a success," he said.

According to the Times’s piece, as of this past October, the Rudolphs were selling about 250,000 boxes of the stuff a month.

Branding – central to Banza’s strategy – doesn’t happen in a vacuum; The company takes lots of direction from customers themselves, reaches out to journalists by sending them customized emails and takes part in pitch contests aimed at start-ups, The New York Times said.

Banza’s website includes tons of recipes and offers answers to FAQs such as: “Is Banza kosher?” (yes); “Is it organic?” (not yet), and “What does it taste like?” (pasta).

Branza Co-Founder Brian Rudolph, a 2008 graduate of Byram Hills High School in Armonk, majored in finance and international business at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School.

Scott Rudolph, CFO of Banza, also co-founded Vero Water, an eco-friendly water bottling solution for restaurants. He previously worked in private equity investing in a variety of sectors. Having graduated from Byram Hills High School in 2001, he went on to earn a BBA from Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

The brothers teamed up in 2013 to come up with a healthier pasta, according to the company’s website.

A penchant for good health apparently runs in the Rudolphs’ genes -- their mom, Robin, is an audiologist in Mount Kisco; their dad, Michael, is an orthodontist with offices in Chappaqua and Ossining.

To read The New York Times story, click here.

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